Thursday, October 30, 2008

Successful Yet Defeated

More observations:

Okay, so I have been down at the school all this morning. It was Awards Day for the kids. Haven't been there in forever, really. I'm used to being down there every day or every other day. Well, not now, but then. Last year, the year before that, and the year before that. Wasn't there everyday or every other day last year, but I was there frequently.

So this year, I go up there only to attend parent teacher meetings, or to pick my kids up. It's funny how many observations can be fairly made when you're part of something everyday, and how righteous you are allowed to feel for making these observations. When your not there everyday, well, you simply just become a quiet spectator and wonder a bit about things.

I started going to school everyday with Mike Jr. when we first decided to enroll him into public school, which was when he was in 3rd grade. (Well technically, he was supposed to be in 4th grade, but since he was struggling with so many different concepts because of Autism, we opted for him to do 3rd again in public school.) I just couldn't bare the thought of throwing him to the wolves after having homeschooled him for his first 4 years, especially considering the fact that he was just recently diagnosed as having autism back then.

I was so fucking terrified of what everyone must've thought about me then, following my kid around like a lost little puppy, but I was even MORE terrified of the thought of all the things that might've happened to him that happened to me in public school. So there I was, volunteering everyday.

I wouldn't really LITERALLY call it "volunteering", because I was only mostly there to help Mike. Carmen and David could do okay without me, they could function independantly, but I was really concerned about Mike because of his communication issue. If something went awry at school, how would he ever begin to tell me if he had not the skill to do so? He could barely verbalize his needs to ME, his own mother, what more could be said of complete strangers??

Eventually I had my heart melted away by all the other students with needs, like every mother that usually winds up volunteering, so I helped who I could, but mostly focused on Mike. There were a small handful of kiddos that I helped regularly, and I knew every fucking name of every kid not only in Mike's classroom, but David's and Carmen's as well. I also came to know many of the other students in other classrooms because there is always such a great need for extra support from whomever can be available in the school system.

I began to understand the different styles not only of my own kids, but the learning styles of other parent's children as well. It was invigorating to know that I was a part of these kid's lives everyday, making a difference, in some little way, even if it was teaching them the most basic of neccessities, like Daily Oral Language, or remembering to carry the one to the tens place. I would later reward these kids with learning differences, whom are deemed disabled, with chats about the latest episode of Naruto, or where to go to get all the masks you need in order to gain entry to the last temple of the game in the Zelda's series Majora's Mask. These kids that were/are deemed "disabled" were able to speak a language completely unspeakable to most of society, yet here we were, succeeding in places most people could care less about.

Again, Mike started going to public school in the 3rd grade, so naturally, these kids in Mike's class were considered "the oldest" ones to me in the school, because I had no prior experience with the other grades really. 4th, 5th, and 6th grades were a fucking stretch for me. I just couldn't imagine what it would be like for Mike in any of those other grades, so I didn't. I just focused on the "here and now".

But these kids, the older ones....they all seemed so mature for their age, like teenagers already. Hell, most of the sixth graders pretty much were. For me, they were like this unattainable facade of our lifestyle, and I held many of these kiddos at bay for that reason. I'm not going to lie when I say I was intimidated, daunted by these folk. I was just so fascinated at the little things, like how they managed to have come so fucking far in life, WITHOUT their parents there, riding their asses down the hallway, making sure they didn't forget to turn in last night's homework, guiding them in the proper way to respond to other fellow asshole classmates that want to make fun of each other, reminding them to "wipe their face after they eat". There they were, making a place for themselves in this universe. All by themselves. This kept me up at nights. Worrying about Mike Jr. and how in the fuck was he going to survive all this. I could barely survive it as a kid.

But here he is now, in 6th grade, the same grade that I would marvel at 3 years before,all tall and lanky, tromping along with all the other pre-teens, surviving the chaos and madness that is the school system. He's got hair growing from his armpits, has to wear deodorant on a regular basis, knows how to defend himself in a battle of asshole wits, and can efficiently remember to wipe his face after he's done eating in the school cafeteria. There are girls with boobs bigger than mine, and boys that could succeed in getting a date with me if they lied about their age. (kidding of course)

But really, here my kid is, mingling with society, surviving my worst nightmare come true, and I have to sit back a moment to take it all in. It's just fucking too much to bare. I was at his awards assembly this morning watching all these kids that I've been with over the last 3 years all grown up, and I get a taste of what it must be like for teachers day in and day out.

They do what they do not for money, not for fame, not for self recognition. They do it for the kids. And no matter how fucking ridiculous it can be to get up out of bed in the morning and face these kids everyday, enduring the thankless hours of backtalk and sass, not ever knowing for sure whether or not they have what it takes to lead these kids into what is to be their future, well, they just do it. They just get up, and fucking do it. Because they know some day they'll be able to look back at all the times students gave them shit, all the times parents were doubting their methods, and feel some sort of success in knowing that because of them, these kids survived another day.

I almost had to excuse myself to the restroom a few times for fear I was going to lose my composure in front of everyone because of this notion. But I managed to keep a lid on my emotions this time.

There were other times I wasn't able to. Like the first time I heard Mike Jr. during a Christmas rehearsal, singing along with all the other kiddos. He was right up there with everybody else, singing, smiling, wrestling with other kids his age for his spot on the bleachers, and enjoying life. My heart felt like it was going to split asunder as I forced the tears back, but I failed miserably at the attempt. I don't know if anyone ever saw me crying that afternoon, years ago, but I was. I really fucking was.

There was just so much beauty in that moment.

I have a bone to pick with the school system, though. A silent bone, that will probably reach no further than to the end of this blog and the few who choose to read my nonsense. But yes, I do have a bone.

There are so many kids in school. So many, in fact, that MANY, MANY, MANY of their needs get overlooked. This is not news, I know. The system tries to help out as much as possible, and has succeeded in doing so for as much effort as they have put.

But what I am facing here is what one would call a dilemma, I guess.

I am all for kids getting awards, receiving recognition for all the hard work they've been doing all year. They deserve it. They need it. That affirmation will be what gets them going good for the years to come in most cases.

What I am concerned about is all the kids that DON'T get recognition. The ones that aren't really receiving anything at all. I have been on both ends of the stick here, so to speak, and it is both rewarding but also brutally painstaking as I attend these awards ceremonies semester after semester.

I watch as my daughter face beams when she receives an award for getting straight A's for the umpteenth fucking time. And I beam too. I see David's face light up when his name is called for his well earned efforts in making A/B honor roll. And Mike Jr.'s quite happy as he receives outstanding citizenship for all his good choices in behavior.

But if you take the time to look around, you see the faces of the kids that aren't beaming or lighting up.Instead they are hanging their head down in shame. Most of these kids, you might think, deserve it. But they don't. They've been there every fucking day just like everyone else. Most of them aren't equipped with the skills to individually do well on their own, and with the school staff being limited, they can only do so much to help these kids. Many of these kids have been thrown to the wolves, only to be devoured by society's popular ideal of "You get what you put in".

I feel terrible, because that's just not fucking true in life. Maybe some of the time, but not MOST of the time. And definately not in these kid's cases. The same kids I see up there winning awards for being a perfect citizen are the same ones I hear calling my kids names on the playground when they think no one can hear them. They are the same ones telling my kids that I'm a devil worshipper or a slut, just because no one's around to reprimand their ignorance. Yes, most of the kids that don't get awards have these same problems too, they're just not as sneaky and cunning as the ones that didn't get caught.

So all in all, some kids are just getting awards for being sneaky enough. But again, ALL of these kids have been working hard, but not all of them are getting affirmation, because they aren't making the grade. But they are still working hard. Just because someone understands and some others don't they are being ostracized as failures, deemed unworthy of a shake from the hand of the principal, and a piece of paper stating how great you did for understanding.

A fucking dilemma indeed.

All these kids need to know how awesome they are doing, and I think it's GREAT that there are kids getting recognized, but somehow there has gotta be a way to give these other kids hope. Hope that even though you didn't understand how to do the work, you showed up, you tried, and we still think that you're awesome too.

How does one do that? Because in a way it's not going to be fair to all the kids that DO work hard every night for the grade they have, but at the same time, for kids like Mike, he is putting in twice as much effort as the "typical" kid, and not getting A's. And there are so many others like Mike, and it's just heartbraking to see these kids looking around, wondering how come they aren't receiving affirmation that their efforts don't go unnoticed. When you're a kid, getting an award means you did good. Period. As an adult I can say, "Well, I know you worked twice as hard as anybody else Mike, but you just have to keep trying"...but does a child understand that?

No, not really. Especially ones with learning differences. We are just learning that we have to learn the way everybody else is learning and be able to SHOW that to everyone on command in order to get recognition.

I saw a 3rd grader crying today, with his head tucked in between his knees because he didn't receive any awards. Sure, he's got behavior issues, and probably learning differences of some sort, but does that mean we should forget about him and toss him aside like a 3 dollar whore?

I don't think so.

People need to know when their doing the wrong thing. But how do you tell them that they were awesome for trying anyway? Is there an award for that at school yet?

Nope.

11 comments:

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Odd that they don't have rewards for effort.

As a previous teacher, I can't stand a policy of what I've always called "everyone gets one". I believe the school's primary role is to help prepare kids for real grownup life, and rewarding kids for nothing does not accomplish that.

Sometimes we deal with folks we don't like or who don't like us. Sometimes there are conflicts. And sometimes there are no rewards. (I was never an overachiever, so I was in this camp.) As a mommy of one over achiever and one underachiever, it sucks. But I also see the differences in them, that one will do the unpleasant things in life willingly and the other won't. And there are a ton of kids like that.

In my experience, encouraging kids helps them in ways rewarding never will. Maintaining high standards, keeping kids accountable, and telling them every day you wouldn't ask them to do the hard things unless you thought they could do it does more than some certificate.

I'd guess many of those teachers find ways to encourage those who didn't get something at the ceremony--the little unseen gestures that parents rarely see.

Realmcovet said...

Yes, there are some teachers out there that are wise enough to encourage them, I have been witness to that, I am very thankful for teachers like that.

And I can see your take on it, because you're absolutely right when you say that sometimes, especially as an adult, there just isn't going to be any rewards for the things we do; we should just be DOING them anyway.

The thing is that, some of these kids don't have that ideal ingrained into their processing memory yet. And a little bit of encouragement can go a very long way in awakenening that part of one's self.

I've always felt that encouragement and rewarding go hand in hand:

-A reward encourages, especially in a child's eyes. Something about shaking the principal's hand and him/her handing you an award just speaks so much louder than a secret pat on the head from the teacher saying "You did good kiddo". But they are both very valuable in the long run.

I have one overacheiver, one who does twice the work of an overachiever and STILL fails to get the recognition he deserves, and then one who's perfectly content with whatever comes his way, whether he overachieves or not. This is very conflicting for me as well, and yes, you are right, it does suck to deal with the irony of it all. But I feel that they are all willing to do the unpleasant things in life, whether there's a reward for them out there or not. Getting some sort of recognition for it makes it a more joyous task though.

I feel that in sending the children of today a message of encouragement in the way of a reward/award can only nurture a child's growing sense of the world out there. I've never seen where it's been detrimental to award a kid for trying, even though they didn't quite get the job done. Maybe they shouldn't get the same reward as the kid who DID get it "right" the first time, but there should definately be something there along the lines of "You tried, KEEP ON TRYING kiddo!!"

Too many times I've seen situations where kids just gave up because it felt like a hopeless cause. Those are the "plants" that need watering and sunshine. Otherwise their uncovered talents will just wilt away. Many of these kiddos wind up gaining a negative attitude towards rewards and what they mean, and instead facilite the use of undesirable behaviors as a way to gain a sense of recognition from people.

I was one of those kiddos.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Realm:
I related to everything in this post! I have four kids. Oldest is a classical violinist and school came easily for her. Second Oldest is a meth genius--his IQ is way high but he struggles because he is disorganized. He has no interest in organized sports . . . and he is "different"--I think in a good way. But it PAINS me to see him be outside the norm in ways that hurt him. Next comes my really gifted girl--special school for gifted kids, just tracks way high--age 10, reads on college level. AND YET, is SO sensitive, has her feeling hurt easily because she is a softy. Same thing, I spend my time agaonizing over her . . . wanting to call up the 'mean girls'" parents and say . .. can't you see other people's kids deserve a fair shake? And then there's Demon Baby who I am sure will be a challenge when it comes to school. I spend time aching for each of them . . . And I understand about what Sex Scenes says when it comes to awards, but you know what? They have their WHOLE LIVES to have the world kick them. To be average. To be . . . whatever, disappointed. I think raising up every child as a special child in elementary school is important. Every single one.

I am about (I think) to take in a foster daughter. She said no ONE, no adult, her whole life has every said she was special. That sucks. To me she is special by virtue of her inner beauty and the world has failed her.

E

Realmcovet said...

Yes, I agree. These kids will have their whole life to get kicked in the ass. Why not offer up a different flavored can o' the world that is "ass whoop".

I guess I just really feel for those that aren't getting the nurture factor enough in their life. Everyone deserves their fair share of it.

That's awesome that your kids are all so gifted in one way or another. I can't wait to see the profitable yields that Demon Baby will come back with. He's such a cutie!!!

Ewoh Nairb said...

I'm still crying over your angst, upset and the loss of innocence at such a young age, and for those that fall through the gaping holes not only in our schools, but in society at large.

I guess that's why we have friends. They are that support, that "atta boy" that we miss from society at large or from the school that we need to have. Need for our psyche, for our esteem, for our soul to fly, to breathe.

Thank you so much for writing this, for standing in the space of 'each and every' to have recognition and an extraordinary life. Thank you.

I read your post and I look into the future, the very near future of what my daughters will face at school and in society. I need to hug them now, tell them that I love them, tell them that all is well, at least for another day.

Realmcovet said...

Well THANK YOU for your kind words "ewob". :)

I think that all will be well for you and yours, considering the kind man you seem to be.

Friends are most definately the food that feeds our souls when all feels lost.

And also thank you for your encouragement, I will have to stop by your blog and see some more of who you are. :)

(I've seen you on Erica's blog a few times!)

Realmcovet said...

Whoops, my bad, I meant to refer to you as "ewoh". Sorry 'bout that!!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think you might have misunderstood my intent. I don't believe in false awards, but of course awards help encourage kids. But they're a house of cards, reliant on others' approval. My kid's school has "superior kid award" just a little doohicky they get for helping someone or working hard in class that day. It's a great thing and no way would I want them to stop it. Thing is, there's no way to keep it consistent and as much as we try, kids learn early that some people get more rewards than others. So I can't stand when adults try to pretend that we can ever even the scale.

When I worked with kids (underprivileged kids, some in gang, severe behavior problems--smart kids who NEVER achieved at school) their participation was at my discretion. They learned quickly I wouldn't put up with anything less than hard work. And I learned that their biggest reward was crossing that boundary between "doing it for the teacher" and "doing it for yourself." That's powerful stuff and no stupid certificate or even a pat on the back helps a kid get there. It could only be achieved by actually doing what was expected and was completely independent of whether I praised them or not. In fact, I learned the more I praised them, the longer it took for them to learn to own their successes.

They really only achieve it through hard work. And truly, in my experience, the most "award winning" type kids end up relying on outside approval their whole lives (you only have to go to a 20 year reunion to see that). So THAT'S what I mean about encouragement. Encouraging them to work hard and do the right things and then saying "I bet you feel really good about how hard you worked, huh?" goes so much further than any reward or praise we can give them. I think what's sorely lacking in schools and parenting these days is a sort of "unspoken confidence". By that I mean high expectations speak volumes on how well you think they can do.

Look, we just went through this with my son. We had to tell him, "I wouldn't be asking you to do all this hard work and keep up on your homework and behave in school if I thought you couldn't do it."

Letting the children OWN their successes is what true encouragement is all about.

Realmcovet said...

"Letting the children OWN their successes is what true encouragement is all about."

-Point well taken, VERY well taken.

Some kids will never get that opportunity though, no matter how hard they try. I think it would be easier to just tell ALL these kiddos that they are doing awesome right up front, with award/reward AND encouragement: a CLEAR message that "yes, we acknowledge that you are ALL doing hard work, whether you make the grade or not", than allowing more and more of these kiddos to slip through the cracks of society with unclear messages of "You get what you put in, SOMETIMES."

In regards to the "(you only have to go to a 20 year reunion to see that)" statement, I laughed my ASS off at that.. Many people DO need outside approval, but maybe that's the time and place where they can learn that not everybody gets a reward...

-In adulthood.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just prattling off nonsense now. I've not really thought of the repercussions of such an ordeal: waiting til your an adult to come to an awareness that one is not always going to be recognized no matter how hard one works. Definately some food for thought.

As always Sex, you challenge me. And I think that your intentions are all very well and good. I LOVE that about you. I think you are a very conflicted person on the inside, and I love this about you as well. It comes out in your writing....the whole dialogue of "should I be doing this? should I not? Aw FUCK IT. I'm gonna do what I please." And then it all goes round in circles again. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I see in you, and that's what I FUCKING LOVE about you.

Your seductive spell STILL has yet to wear off on me woman. What new devilry have you put on me NOW??!! :D

Realmcovet said...

"Letting the children OWN their successes is what true encouragement is all about."

-Point well taken, VERY well taken.

Some kids will never get that opportunity though, no matter how hard they try. I think it would be easier to just tell ALL these kiddos that they are doing awesome right up front, with award/reward AND encouragement: a CLEAR message that "yes, we acknowledge that you are ALL doing hard work, whether you make the grade or not", than allowing more and more of these kiddos to slip through the cracks of society with unclear messages of "You get what you put in, SOMETIMES."

In regards to the "(you only have to go to a 20 year reunion to see that)" statement, I laughed my ASS off at that.. Many people DO need outside approval, but maybe that's the time and place where they can learn that not everybody gets a reward...

-In adulthood.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just prattling off nonsense now. I've not really thought of the repercussions of such an ordeal: waiting til your an adult to come to an awareness that one is not always going to be recognized no matter how hard one works. Definately some food for thought.

As always Sex, you challenge me. And I think that your intentions are all very well and good. I LOVE that about you. I think you are a very conflicted person on the inside, and I love this about you as well. It comes out in your writing....the whole dialogue of "should I be doing this? should I not? Aw FUCK IT. I'm gonna do what I please." And then it all goes round in circles again. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I see in you, and that's what I FUCKING LOVE about you.

Your seductive spell STILL has yet to wear off on me woman. What new devilry have you put on me NOW??!! :D

Realmcovet said...

Whoops. Double posts on my own blog?? I'm a loser. Sue me.